Malta, Portugal Shine Brightest In Citizenship, Residency Programmes Ranking

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 28 February 2024

Malta, Portugal Shine Brightest In Citizenship, Residency Programmes Ranking

The data sheds light on who is top of the tree in the citizenship and residency-by-investment schemes around the world. Malta and Portugal rank top in their respective categories.

The Mediterranean island of Malta tops the charts for having the most sought-after citizenship programme in the world, while Portugal has the most popular residence scheme, according to data from Henley & Partners.

The Global Citizenship Program Index ranks 13 schemes, with the strategically-located European nation of Malta scoring 77 out of 100 and taking top honours once again. Malta’s offering provides citizenship by a certificate of naturalisation to foreign individuals and their families who contribute to the country’s economic development.

The Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta

Austria, with a score of 74, is in second place. Three Caribbean island nations tie in third position, each scoring 70: Antigua and Barbuda; Grenada; and St Lucia.

Henley advises wealthy individuals and families about obtaining citizenship and residency – often by the use of investment and business activity.

Portugal’s residence permit scheme ranks first out of 26 programmes, with a score of 75 out of 100. Behind Portugal are Austria and Greece, and then Switzerland.

Lisbon, Portugal

Italy’s residency scheme ranks on a par with the UK’s Innovator Founder Visa. The only top five programme not in Europe is the Canada Start-Up Visa Program.

The “golden visa” market, as it is sometimes dubbed, covers a mass of jurisdictions and is a feature of globalisation. It can be controversial, however, when property markets become hot from an influx of wealthy buyers, or when there are claims that these programmes are a weak spot for money launderers. Programmes can be suspended or changed. In 2022, for example, the UK scrubbed its Tier 1 Investor shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. In Malta's case, it has had to adjust its own programme – excluding Russians – while Portugal's scheme has come under domestic political pressure.

Henley & Partners said these programmes have an important role to play in an age when capital and talent is highly mobile.

“In this era of heightened global volatility, nation states are using investment migration as an innovative financing tool to fund national or regional social and infrastructure projects as well as development initiatives that mitigate sustainability risks, to the benefit of their citizens and residents,” Dr Christian H Kaelin, international immigration and citizenship law expert and chairman of Henley & Partners, said.

Americans looking for options
Last year, US citizens were the top nationality applying for alternative residence and citizenship options through Henley & Partners, it said – a trend that has continued into the first quarter of 2024. 

This news service has spoken to the Investment Migration Council, a group representing practitioners in the space, about trends affecting the sector, such as new forms of visa and sources of demand.

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